Across the Mountain West, counties and municipalities are finding solutions for their housing shortages. The City of Durango is moving forward on the conversion of a hotel into 120 units of workforce housing. Aspen is hashing out plans to build 310 deed-restricted apartments and condos on the site of a former lumberyard. And last winter, Telluride approved a temporary measure to allow their local workforce to car-camp in a town park. Can Grand County offer similar innovation to solve some of our housing scarcity and affordability issues? Our Planning Commission is doing its darnedest to make it so. 

Everywhere, it’s a little messy. The first measures aren’t perfect, but they are often really good. These Colorado towns with issues analogous to Moab’s demonstrate that such audacious, imaginative solutions take time. Here in Grand County, several steps must be taken before we determine where, when, and how affordable and alternative housing options will exist. Fortunately, Grand County’s Planning Commission, with Chair Emily Campbell at the helm, has begun the process. After a false start toward a temporary vehicular dwelling permit, the Commission has pivoted toward amending the Land Use Code to create an avenue to develop long-term camparks. These camparks—location and size of which are yet to be determined—will “support the housing needs of seasonal workforce and other long term residents who lack access to housing due to current market conditions,” according to the Commission. 

I applaud our Planning Commission’s willingness to address this issue with invention and persistence. Specifically, Chair Campbell has consistently shown up with good ideas, a unifying message, and a sense of urgency commensurate with our housing crisis. I was so pleased when I learned that she is running for Grand County Commission. Her skills as a communicator, her vision for service governance, and her bright optimism for a better Moab have earned her my vote. 

First, we as residents can show up to support these Land Use Code amendments at a public hearing on August 8 at 4:30 p.m. at the Grand County Commission Chambers. Our presence and voice can carry the momentum driven by the Planning Commission. Then, as we approach Election Day on November 8, we can support local progressive candidates with our money, time, and enthusiasm. Exemplary leaders like Campbell are already working to make a more responsive government and a more equitable Moab. A better future is coming. Let’s help to bring it here. 

Sam Van Wetter 

Rural Utah Project